CRISTIANO RONALDO considered quitting football before his big break at Manchester United due to constant bullying, loneliness and homesickness.
Though now one of the greatest players in history, Ronaldo had to overcome considerable adversity during his days at Sporting Lisbon’s academy.
A new book claims the Red Devils star — who went on to win five Champions League titles and five Ballon d’Ors — almost packed it up as he struggled to fit in with fellow kids.
Ronaldo was born in February 1985 on the island of Madeira — 535 miles from the Portuguese capital Lisbon.
He was recruited by Sporting at the age of 12 but his first few years were so tough that a new book published this week claims Ronaldo:
- Was teased mercilessly for his heavy Madeiran accent by other boys.
- Got into a series of bust-ups and scrapes in the schoolyard.
- Once became so angry when he felt a teacher was making fun of the way he spoke, he threw a chair at her.
- Cried every day for months as he missed his family and local friends.
According to the book, Messi vs Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATs, and the Era That Remade the World’s Game the 37- year-old thought about leaving before he had made the first XI.
It is also claimed Sporting directors threatened to send him home if his attitude did not improve as he produced bad grades in lessons and was frequently absent from class.
In the end, an agreement was made after almost a year that allowed Ronaldo to quietly drop his studies and focus on his football.
As he would later explain: “I always felt that I wasn’t cut out for school. So what was the point?”
Ronaldo is renowned for his impeccable physique but, as a teenager, he was initially not allowed inside the gymnasium.
While he could concentrate on football full-time by the age of 14, his plans to bulk up and build muscles — so he would not be easily knocked off the ball — were blocked by hierarchy at the Portuguese giants. At the time, the club’s academy had strict limits on the amount of time young players were permitted to work out.
It was one of the golden rules laid down by academy executive Aurelio Pereira, who said: “We never put children in gyms. That is one of the secrets behind our players’ long careers. It’s important to let them grow naturally.”
As a result, Ronaldo — who told his peers he would be “the best in the world one day” — started sneaking out of the dormitory at night to lift weights in the gym.
When the Sporting coaches caught him, they punished him with detention. Other times they had to padlock shut the gym during the evenings.
Ronaldo refused to stop and he even took BUCKETS into the showers after training, filling them with water to use as weights for squats and push-ups.
When the buckets were taken away, he began strapping weights to his ankles and racing cars away from stoplights on the street.
And when coaches took the balls away after training to stop him from overdoing it, he found a bowl of fruit in the cafeteria and ball juggled with ORANGES.
Sporting fitness coach Carlos Bruno recalled of Ronaldo’s dedication: “He always wanted more.
“Most players, when the training goes on too long, they say, ‘Hey, coach, too much water kills the plant, you know?’ Cristiano was a guy who always wanted more water in the plant.”
l Messi vs Ronaldo: One Rivalry, Two GOATs and the Era That Remade the World’s Game, by Joshua Robinson and Jonathan Clegg, is published by Mariner Books and is out tomorrow.